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Appropriate Technology Choice

'Technologising' education

14 January 2009

Dr. Ananya S. Guha

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Integrating technologies with the educational system is a major challenge of pedagogy today. Dr Ananya S. Guha of IGNOU states that the two are in fact inseparable.

In my opinion the ' technologising' of education, all began with the phenomenon of distance education, and its growing popularity.

To view technology only as an end in itself is positing a dangerous and inimical view

It is adult education, continuing education, training, digital education and professional education - all interconnected, where distance education is a mechanism to facilitate learning for the above mentioned components.

Technology is the interface and the catalytic medium to take education to various working groups of people, drop outs from the conventional system of education, and adult learners in general.

The popularity of technology was because of its cost effectiveness, where there is little or no recurring expenditure, it breaks barriers of time, place and space, creating a cosmic space in the globalised community of today.

Technology and education are concomitants and inseparable entities, where technology is a means to a larger end.

To view technology only as an end in itself is positing a dangerous and inimical view, because in a technology driven society there is danger of its misuse and abuse.

Technology for learning

Distance Education efficaciously uses components of technology, holistically, where classroom teaching is also a significant methodology. But, technology aided instruction complements the study texts and weaves a complex fabric into the intricacies of learning and teaching.

The furious clamour for e-Learning in the form of Internet and mobile learning characterises our demand for learning and training. The world of work and the world of education are intimately connected, as the Delors Commission Report (UNESCO, 1996) posits so aptly. But more than technological vision, it is the technological appositeness or appropriateness that is important.

e-Learning is a composite compendium of technologies including the print material as print is the most primal form of technological intervention in education. Synchronous and asynchronous learning is a technology created potential, unleashing borderless education.

My experience as an academic administrator in the Indira Gandhi National Open University for the last sixteen years or so, has enabled me to understand not only the perspicacious utility of technology, but its subjective appropriateness.

What is advantageous in one local condition is not so in another, in a heterogeneous society with an intermix of variable levels of social and economic development. This is the Indian context. Thus, contrary to common belief that the radio has now become an outmoded form of technology, there has been a resurgence of the radio in the form of FM Channels and the community radio.

Two way audio and one way video tele-interactivity is cost efficient and effective, but we have to perhaps intensively reach rural areas, which are handicapped by limitations such as paucity of electricity and lack of TV signals. In the cities and towns, the internet is very popular due to the mushroom growth of cyber cafes.

Education must be construed in terms of learning and entertainment. In common parlance, 'edutainment' and technology is the driving force and moving spirit here.

Computer broadcasting or podcasting can be very potent devices for teaching and learning. The skype and the yahoo messenger are repositories for educational texts in a contexts where education drives technology. Blogs should be used by teachers, which would help in creating classrooms within classrooms, both in traditional and distance education contexts.

I am trying to contextualise things in a country which has disparities of scale. The wide disparities of economy and diversities in geographical conditions automatically bring in the oft talked about and touted 'digital divide'.

It is here that e-Learning communities and groups can play a vital role in dissemination of knowledge and good practices about the successful use of technology for development and education. The broader platform of e-Learning is the rapid growth of online activism, writing, creative writing in various sites all over the world, including India.

Learning in its broadest sense is a 'continuing' process and e-Learning is part of such lifelong learning.

The use of moodle for multi-tasking is another endeavour in replicating the classroom situation, online, with the help of the Internet.

The challenge of education today is, radicalising it, with technology exacerbating knowledge driven forces, autodidactically.

Dr. Ananya S. Guha is Joint Director, Regional Services Division at IGNOU.

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